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Quebec gym owners, clients who flout COVID-19 red zone rules will face fines: Legault

Click to play video 'Opposition pushes for more transparency from Legault government' Opposition pushes for more transparency from Legault government
WATCH: Quebec's premier says his government is being as transparent as it can be about how it responds to the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, opposition parties say much more needs to be done to rebuild public trust they say has been lost – Oct 27, 2020

After ordering gyms and other fitness centres in designated red zones to remain closed for another month, Quebec’s premier is warning there will be fines for owners and patrons who flout the restrictions aimed at stemming the tide of COVID-19.

François Legault announced that he will introduce a decree on Wednesday to ensure that anyone who defies the measures is met with consequences.

“Regarding the gymnasiums, we will have police officers give fines to the owners and the customers,” he told reporters Tuesday.

The proposed decree comes one day after the provincial government extended restrictions for areas on red alert, including Montreal and Quebec City.

Read more: Quebec extends restrictions in coronavirus red zones for another 4 weeks

Gyms, bars museums and other establishments in those regions will remain closed until Nov. 23 in order to bring down the daily tally of new novel coronavirus infections. The measures, which came into effect at the beginning of the month, were set to last until Oct. 28 if all went well.

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“I think the big majority of Quebecers understand that we cannot currently open restaurants, we cannot open gyms because there is a risk of spread,” Legault said.

Before the lockdown was extended, a coalition of the owners of gyms, yoga and dance studios and other fitness centres in high-alert areas expressed their frustration on Monday.

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In a statement, they said they are part of the solution to keeping Quebecers healthy during the pandemic.

Some, but not all, owners vowed to reopen this week, citing a lack of evidence that their establishments have contributed to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Click to play video 'Some Quebec gym owners vow to reopen despite pandemic restrictions' Some Quebec gym owners vow to reopen despite pandemic restrictions
Some Quebec gym owners vow to reopen despite pandemic restrictions – Oct 26, 2020

At least one gym owner said he will open on Thursday — and he plans to report himself to police in order to get a ticket. Dan Marino, the owner of the Mega Fitness Gym in Quebec City, said he wants to challenge any fines he receives in court.

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Marino, one of the organizers of the coalition, said he’s worried about people’s mental health and he said he doesn’t believe gyms are any more dangerous than businesses that have been allowed to stay open.

“We’re not more dangerous than a Walmart,” he said. “We’re not more dangerous than a Costco. We’re not more dangerous than a Dollarama.”

Second wave poorly handled, opposition parties say

Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade criticized the provincial government’s handling of the health crisis Tuesday, saying she felt social peace is now at stake.

Opposition parties at the national assembly reacted to the extension on Tuesday, arguing the province needs to be clearer with the public. Anglade, for her part, said Quebecers’ confidence in the government is starting to wane and the “28-day challenge was a failure.”

“If we had been more transparent and consistent, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Read more: Quebec gym, yoga and dance business owners vow to reopen despite COVID-19 measures

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, the new leader of the Parti Québécois, also lambasted the province’s response to the second wave.

“You see it in the way they push the 28-day challenge, a bit like a contest or a Loto-Quebec event,” he said.

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Yet Legault defended the public health measures, saying he had “nothing to hide.” The extension of restrictions in red zones was necessary because the daily tally of COVID-19 cases remain high in those areas, he added.

“All the information I have, I give,” he said.

The premier also called on the Canadian government to extend the border closure with the United States. Given the pandemic, Legault said they should remain closed until the end of the year.

With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and The Canadian Press

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